Get the most from your Mac

Get the most from your Mac



Culling your calendars

Apple’s iCal software – now simply named Calendar in OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion – has long supported multiple calendars to organise and also segregate appointments relating to different groups.

Those can be as simple as the defaults of ‘Work’ and ‘Home’, but can also be broken into different projects and sideline activities. There’s also scope to synchronise against your Google Apps calendar and other share Google calendars.

Over time, the number of calendars on your Mac can get out of control, although deleting any one calendar runs the risk of losing all the appointments and reminders associated with that. We’ll show you how to safely trim back your calendars to as few as needed.

Start by backing up your entire Calendar: go to ‘File > Export > Calendar Archive’ and save the archive file to your desktop or a specific folder. (If you’re running OS X 10.7 or earlier, that menu option and all others that reference Calendar will instead be labelled iCal.)

In the Calendar app, ensure all the calendars are showing by clicking ‘View > Show Calendar List’. Click on the name of a calendar you want to remove, then right-click and choose ‘Export’ to stow its contents safely away in an .ICS file. Once that’s done, right-click that calendar again and select ‘Delete’. Repeat this two-step process for every calendar you wish to cull. There’s nothing stopping you from axing every calendar, if you wish, and then creating a new one via ‘File > New Calendar’ to start with a clean slate.

When you’re down to only the calendars you wish to keep, or even a single calendar, it’s time to resurrect the appointments from old calendars. Go to ‘File > Import > Import’ and choose the .ICS file from the first calendar you did the export-and-delete process for.

In the ‘Add Events’ window, choose your remaining calendar as the destination and click ‘OK’. Repeat this for all previously nuked calendars until every appointment is back on your books.

Adding events to your calender

There’s a slight snag in this: if you own an iDevice, and especially if you’ve been dabbling with iCloud for calendar synchronisation, you’re likely to see appointments appearing many times because they’ve somehow come to belong to more than one calendar.

Jump online and grab iCal Cleaner, a free utility from the creators of the highly regarded Calendar alternative BusyCal. iCal Cleaner will efficiently weed out all duplicate events. You’ll find it at busymac.com and despite the name, it also works perfectly with Mountain Lion’s updated Calendar.

iCal Cleaner utilityUse iCal Cleaner to get rid of all duplicated events.

Easily send PDFs to your iPad

As somebody who tends to copy a lot of PDFs onto their iPad for later reading and reference, I’d have to rate this as one of the coolest little-known tricks of the Mac.

In any app that prints, you can choose to send a PDF of the document straight into the iTunes library. From here it’ll be copied onto your iPad and loaded into iBooks during the next sync session, provided your iPad is set up to synchronise books from iTunes.

This smart shortcut has plenty of uses. Let’s say you’re attending a conference and the itinerary, conference guide and other materials have been emailed to you as PDFs. Open each one in ‘Preview’, hit ‘Print’ and at the bottom of the ‘Print’ window you’ll see a ‘PDF’ button with a drop-down arrow. Click that button and select ‘Add PDF to iTunes’.

Add PDF to iTunes optionCopy those long web articles onto your iPad as a PDF for later reading in the iBooks app.

Downloaded a book, magazine or manual in PDF format? Same deal. I tend to use this trick most often for copying very long articles from the internet – quality tomes of 10,000 words from the likes of Wired or Vanity Fair – to read on my iPad over a coffee or on a flight.

Print PDFs to DropBox

A related trick involves printing a PDF, which is then copied directly into a Dropbox folder. This makes the PDF available online to anybody who shares that folder. Alternatively, you can send the PDF to a personal folder and download it onto your iDevice at your leisure.

First up, you’ll need to dive into your Mac’s hidden ‘Library’ folder. In the Finder, click the ‘Go’ menu and then press the Option key to see ‘Library’ appear on the list of destinations. There are plenty of times you’ll want access to the ‘Library’ folder, so I suggest using the free Mountain Tweaks utility from tweaksapp.com to permanently unhide this.

Inside the ‘Library’, locate and open the ‘PDF Services’ folder. Open a new Finder window, navigate to your local Dropbox folder and select the folder you’d like your PDFs deposited into. For what it’s worth, I’ve got one marked ‘iPad’.

Right-click that folder and select ‘Make Alias’. Now drag the alias out of the Dropbox folder and into ‘PDF Services’. This adds that folder to the drop-down ‘PDF’ list in any ‘Print’ window – when you click this new menu item a PDF version of your document will appear in your designated Dropbox folder.

Creating an alias in PDF Services folderCreate an alias for a Dropbox folder and copy it into ‘Library > PDF Services’.

Rename the alias to something like ‘Save PDF to Dropbox’ and you’re done. You can, of course, create aliases to several Dropbox folders and indeed any other location on your Mac for quickly routing PDFs into them.

AliasAny alias inside ‘Library > PDF Services’ will appear on the drop-down PDF print menu.

Shortcut to sleep

What’s the quickest way to send your Mac to sleep? It’s making your own shortcut keystroke to mimic the effect of clicking ‘

> Sleep’. Open the ‘System Preferences’ window, click on ‘Keyboard’ and select the ‘Keyboard Shortcuts’ tab. Click on ‘Application Shortcuts’ in the list at left side of the pane and click the ‘+’ button found just below and to the right.

In the box that appears, leave the ‘Applications’ selection at ‘All Applications’. In the ‘Menu Title’ box, enter ‘Sleep’, then click inside the ‘Keyboard Shortcut’ box and press whatever key combination you’d like. I use Ctrl+Z (easy to remember: just think of Zzzzz). Click the ‘Add’ button and your shortcut will be saved. While you’re in the ‘Keyboard Shortcuts’ window, scroll through the other categories and check out your options.

Shortcut to Sleep

Use AirDrop over Ethernet

Apple’s clever AirDrop technology creates a secure ad hoc wireless network for instant file sharing.

Airdrop

AirDrop has two small shortcomings, however. It doesn’t run over a local Ethernet network and it won’t work on several older-model Macs – even if they’ve been upgraded to Mac OS X Lion or Mountain Lion.

Here’s a little command line hack that fixes both of those flaws. Open a Terminal window and enter the following:

defaults write com.apple.NetworkBrowser BrowseAllInterfaces -bool true

This forces AirDrop to ‘see’ an Ethernet connection and also switches it on for some older Macs.

Make AirPlay run on any Mac

Another feature Apple has restricted to recent-model Macs is AirPlay. Built into Mountain Lion, AirPlay lets you mirror the screen of your Mac onto any TV set via an Apple TV box.

AirPlay is mostly used for watching a downloaded video on your big-screen telly instead of your pint-sized MacBook. The catch is that AirPlay runs only on a Mac from 2011 or later. (Not sure of your Mac’s era? On the top left menu bar of your screen, Click the Apple icon > About This Mac > More Info’.)

For a measly US$10, AirParrot will mimic AirPlay’s features on older Macs and it even runs on Windows laptops. Just like AirPlay, AirParrot will automatically detect and stream video to Apple TVs.

To make sure that your Mac computer is supported before you buy the software, a trial version of AirParrot lets you use it for 20 minutes.

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